Calista (by Maria Thomas)

Calista was tired. And cold. And aware of the fact that people thought of her a cliché. And dammit being a self-aware cliché really cut like a knife, twisted that knife in the wound, rubbed salt in that wound and then added cold deliberate insult to that injury. Being a cliché she knew her way around them and how to sequence them perfectly- she knew the order in which their pain must be felt. She knew this because, oh crap watch another one, fungus-ridden, come-unbidden, creep into the text... she'd been there done that. She'd fallen prey to the way of the cliché by having inhabited its lonely scorned-at world for too long to be able to return to her waking life. But what the others didn't know was the long and soul-bruising rite of passage you needed to endure before you became a casualty of cliché. It was no bed of roses, no walk in the park, no goddam turkey shoot. It was a long, painful process with a cruel unexpected ending.

For starters, you had to feel things. And not just feel them, but feel them below bone and sinew. Feel them from the deepest place that existed in you. She remembered the first time this had happened with her. She was saying goodbye to someone special- it doesn't matter who it was. What matters was that the train was pulling away, tortuously slowly, and in her dramatic mind with the immutable finality of a Forever. And it did not feel good. In fact, she felt sick. Doubled-over-in-pain sick. If I can describe this I'll feel better she thought. And her pain-blurred consciousness clumsily formed the thick-tongued words... my innards feel gnarled... and twisted... wrung out... squeezed stomach... oh my god my gut... god it's like someone... I have it... I know how this feels... this is just gut-wrenching. And she was flushed and embarrassed. Almost ashamed. Ashamed that the one word she could come up with to describe what was arguably the most genuine and deeply-experienced emotion she had felt to date, should be the preferred adjective of choice of a million trashy novelists and a million trashy movie-reviewers. Gut-wrenching? That's what I came up with?

And then that other time, she was looking for the words to capture and communicate the happy DizzyFizzy, the SuchMuchness of her HereNow, and the beauty of the hebeginswhereiendwhereheendswhereibeginwherehebegins and that means that I-don't-know-where-I-am-anymore-but-I-like-it-here and the words that she spoke were not those that she willed. Get this. She said "I love you". The ultimate cliché. The stuff of a gazillion hallmark cards. And that's when the last nail in her coffin of cliché was driven through her largely misunderstood heart. And she bled with the realization that whenever she connected with anything true, she had to use words handed down to her by generations of faceless others. She burned with the knowledge that the experiences that she felt most fiercely possessive of, had to be transmuted into the most generic language, stripped of fire and meaning by years of abuse. And she knew she'd never be able to explain any of this to Jo. She fell asleep, and in her subconscious mind played the recurring-dream-cliché of Calista carrying her unrequited-love-cliché to the grave.

Jo and Calista